Reader’s note: Please be aware that this short story is inspired by real life events but is entirely fictitious. Please allow artistic license.
It’s Saturday night in Private Eyes. I always hated working the weekends as the clientele are extremely predictable and I can see that tonight is no different. You have the stag do; thirty drunk men including older men like the groom’s father or perhaps grandfather, the groom’s pals who are desperate to get him as many dances as possible while refusing to go for dances themselves, “It’s his night hen, no mine” they all would say. The poor groom would hardly ever finish a drink before being whisked away yet again for another dance he did not want. I used to absolutely loathe stag dos with a passion because look, this is a business and I’m trying to hustle for my salary but there is approximately twenty-eight or so guys who refuse to get a dance! Pointless in my eyes. Then you’d have the regular night out guys. They all look the same. Chinos that are too short for them and their ankles are exposed. Stupid Rihanna album cover t-shirts, you know the EXACT one I’m talking about, the photo of her with her red hair? The album with ‘Only girl in the world on it’? Bet that unlocked a memory for ya! 2012 was a weird time for fashion eh? Those guys used to always try and talk you out of being a stripper for some bizarre reason. “What is a good lookin’ girl like you doing in a place like this?” They’d always ask this question. Would you rather have an ugly stripper than a place filled with nines and tens? Or worldies as the word was back then as Geordie Shore was at the height of its fame. Let get mortal! The drunk chino guys would then start asking personal questions to try and figure out why a girl like you would want to work in a place like this. “But…but why? Why be a stripper?” Why the fuck not David or whatever the fuck your name? My favourite line was when the guys assumed you were there under duress and kept asking if you were there against your will because clearly a woman would not make the choice to grind on laps and wear thongs and 7 inch heels for a living! Blink once if you are being trafficked, blink twice if you want me to rescue you. Truth is, 99.99999% of us had wanted to work there in the beginning and slowly, as the years past, the money and attention became the addiction. Its intoxicating being a stripper. More on this point later. The last group of guys in the titty bar on a Saturday night would be the virgins. The wee newly turned 18 year olds. Now these boys were my prey. No virgin was safe from Lily, I could almost smell them when they walked through the door. A mix of their dad’s Diesel aftershave and precum. Their acne glistening in the strobe lights, the look of bewilderment and excitement in their eyes as they drink in the surroundings. I would make a beeline for these guys because it was far too easy to get these little boys to fall in love with you. Shake dat ass and put them in a trance. They’d give you everything in their wallet and then go to the cashline round the corner for more. It’s the young guys like this who can’t tell that this is all a game, an act. They firmly believe they have a chance with you and especially with me. I looked like the girl next door. Long red hair, pale because I refused to put on fake tan and glasses. I also refused to remove my glasses apart from when swinging on the pole as I’d rather not have them go flying off my face during a show. This became my signature look. Guys would ask at the bar for the ginger with glasses then I’d hear “LILYYYYYYYYYY! THIS GUY WANTS YOU!” from one of the bar staff. Here’s a funny story about my hair. So, I’m a natural ginger but I dyed it a brighter red. All of the girls decided that hair extensions were the way forward and naturally I wanted to hop on the trend. The other girls got their hair done by a girl in Hamilton (No, not the musical! The town in South Lanarkshire), Nicole. She was literally the hairdresser to the strippers of Scotland. Girls would come down from Aberdeen (Yes, there are strip clubs everywhere not just Glasgow and Edinburgh) to get their hair done by Nicole. One night, a guy I worked with in my day job came in on his own and declared his undying love for me while using my real name throughout. I had to skelp him across the face to stop him exposing my real name to the other punters because if you give a customer your real name, he can find you on social media and then the stalking could start…I took advantage of this boy and rinsed him for everything he had, all while he told me how much he loves me and wants to be with me. I had a live in boyfriend at the time so that wasn’t gonna happen but thank you for wasting your week’s wages on me. This guy paid for my hair extensions which were £400. Looking back it was pure daylight robbery but I did not physically go in his wallet and take the money, he gave it to me by his own free will! I got my expensive hair extensions done and the following night I was back at work. The extensions felt heavy in my head and I struggled to sleep as they were literally sewn into my scalp. Sexy right? Well, when I got up on the pole that night to do my show, I miscalculated just how heavy these extensions were and when I leaned my head back to swing around the pole, instead of pulling my head back up in a sexy manor…my head just…kept…going….BAM! The fucking weight of my hair made me cunt it on the stage. Absolutely mortified! The girls and I still talk about this all these years later and made the comment “Better watch ye don’t do a Lily!” anytime any of us gets a new set of extensions. I also did not last long with those extensions, they were promptly removed two weeks later, £400 down the drain.
As I mentioned earlier, I hated working the Friday and Saturday shifts at Private Eyes. The management would force your hand to work one of these two days. They needs bodies on the floor, more bodies, more money for them. Commission was £115 and £125 respectfully on these nights which meant we needed make at least those amount before we earned any money for ourselves. If these stag dos and chino wankers didn’t take us for a dance or at least pay us for the conversation, we were fucked. There were only so many virgins to go around the forty plus girls who were working on a Saturday. It was dog eat dog. Sallie and I (who you remember from the first three stories right? She’s my big titty bestie who smacks down racist guys, with a heart of gold) would smoke packets of fags and drink red wine on these nights, we’d be forced to work the prime time shift when the pair of us earned the majority of our money on a Sunday and Monday. Those were the days the real customers would come in. The suits. The business men. The regular punters. Plus, commission was only 80 quid on a Sunday and Monday, so four dances at £20 a pop that was you almost in profit. The fun thing about a Saturday was that all the girls were working. Sallie, Jenna, Chris, Josie and I. Those were the days. It’s been eight years this year since Josie passed away. We still raise a glass to her on her anniversary and say her famous quote, “I’m the Duke of York cos I’ve had 10,000 men!” Saturday nights were for hardly working, just there to please management. We’d get drunk and dance at bar with each other rather than the men. Gangnam Style by PSY was a relatively new thing at that time, can you imagine five strippers in our heels and barely there lingerie absolutely trollied dancing to Gangham Style while the whole club stared at us in disgust? Well imagine it because it happened on a very regular occurrence! Not just Gangnam Style either, it was the Cha Cha Slide, 5,6,7,8, Huckle Buck and around Christmas, the Gay Gordons. You bet your arse we use to yeet each other across the club like it was our high school ceilidh. The poor foreign girls used to look as us as if we were on drugs and honestly? We were. The first night I started working as a stripper I was offered a line of gear set up on a toilet seat. I refused of course, snort a line off a toilet seat? I have class thank you very much! I used my house key instead. Saturdays were rife with drug deals going down. Many of Glasgow’s gangsters would frequent the club to do their business, after all, the club was run by a very infamous gangster who would come in in his suit and slashed face. Seeing him used to get me wet instantly, what is it about a bad boy that turns a girl on? There’s bad boys then there’s the breed of men who are just plain dangerous Chris used to remind me when I tried to throw myself at the gangsters when I was single. I just wanted my own Bonnie and Clyde 2.0. My favourite drug dealer was Naz. He was a devoted Muslim who prayed five times a day then punted cooncil and prop under the cover of darkness. He sold a variety of things, I used to get my painkillers and sleeping tablets from him at a reasonable price because he liked me. “Happenin’ the night Lily dolly?” He’d ask as he sat down with his pint. We’d talk for ages about everything and anything while he punted and sometimes I would spread the word to customers that gear was readily available, only if I was 100% sure they weren’t a screw. Many of Scotland’s ‘finest’ would come and frequent the club too. I’m sure they knew about the dirty dealings but turned a blind eye to it as long as they got a deal on a few group dances in the VIP room. Everything and everyone can be bought at the right price.
The way we booked our shifts was through a text to the club’s Nokia 3300 (not even a joke, literally a Nokia) and John, the manager who looked after the girls would arrange the shifts in an old school diary. He did have a hard job because certain girls couldn’t see past the competition and used to literally attack each other. I have seen some spectacular scraps over the years and it all comes down to one thing and one thing only. Money. The argument was usually always the same. One girl would have poached a customer from another dancer and he preferred the second girl therefore, spent all his cash on her. If the customer took the second girl to the VIP section it was an almost guaranteed scrap. I became an expert in dodging flying objects and ducking down seconds before the bottles smashed against the wall all while I played the Mortal Kombat theme tune through the speaker in the dressing room. I was always the one who tried to defuse the tension with laughter. It rarely worked though. The only time I actually got into a scrap myself was a few weeks after I had became a stripper and Elena, the resident granny stripper started on me. Now, Elena was literally a grandmother. She was from Romania (I think) and she was literally fifty fucking five. I remember once she had to cut a shift short because her daughter was in labour with her third grandchild but because she did not make full commission she was served a penalty of having an extra £80 added onto her debt. Harsh I thought but the management are arseholes, you know that, I know that. Elena was never nice. I worked with her for a solid three years before her knees eventually gave out and she never had a single nice thing to say to me or anyone else for that fact. She spewed pure bile at every opportunity. On the night she started on me, she’d had a bad night. Happens to the best of us. She took it out on me. “Ehhh! You! Little new girl!” She screamed at me when I walked in to the dressing room after 3am. I looked around to see if she was actually speaking to me. Me? I pointed to myself. “Yes you! You fucking little bitch!” I was completely taken aback. I had literally never broken breath to this woman! “You finished a dance in 30 seconds! This is why men don’t come back here! Keep them entertained you little slut,” She spat on the floor. Gross. I stayed silent. Honestly? I didn’t know what to say. 1. She was incorrect, I did not only dance for 30 seconds I time my lapdances with the changing of the songs I’m not that fucking stupid. 2. She looked quite frail to me if I said boo I thought I’d blow her over 3. It’s 3am! I want to take my thong off and go home. Would she let it go? Ohhhhhhh no. “I’m fucking talking to you! You look at me when I speak!” I turned around and just stared at her. At that moment she launched herself forward in an attack. She barely scraped my jaw with her half closed fist before she slipped in her own spit on the floor and fell right on her arse. Karma at it’s finest. She is one person I do NOT miss. Another problem John had with booking us in for shifts was putting certain girls on the same shift would result in extreme drunkenness and no money being made. Amelia and Sarah were the girls for this. They were the same age as me and just loved the sesh. I mean, back in those days I was a complete slave to the sesh too but these girls took it to another level. I don’t think I’d ever seen either of them sober for like, four years? They were a lot of fun though I must admit. Absolutely gorgeous girls and I mean GORGEOUS. Complete tens all round. Thick as shit, the pair of them. I did see both of them do a handful of dances over the years but not enough to make a proper wage. Where did they get their money from? Other ways. They constantly had boyfriends and other men to pay their commission, buy their drinks, buy their lipfillers. You name it. What a life eh? I remember speaking to Sarah about this. “How the fuck do you get these guys to pay for your life Sarah? I’m knocking my pan in here working two jobs, probably 60 odd hours a week and fuck me I’m el skinto,” I said to her over a vodka and cranberry that Sarah bought me from daddy’s debit card.
“I’d rather have your life Lily,” I snapped my neck round to look at her so quickly that my neck cracked. “I want out of this life. I want what you have,” What the fuck was she talking about? “I want the steady day job, 9-5, the house, the boyfriend, I don’t want to take my clothes off anymore,” Her eyes started to fill with tears. We spoke for hours that night and her ‘boyfriend’ paid both our commissions and gave me £20 for a taxi home. I was working up the ladder in my day job and was recently promoted to a manager position and got her an interview for my work. She never showed up for the interview. I stuck my neck out and she fucked me over. The last I heard was that Sarah was a single mum, on the dole and Amelia had gotten pregnant by an up and coming football player and shacked up with him.
Music is a major component of a stripper’s work. What’s the song that releases your inner hoe? I have a fair few. There are certain songs that I hear that instantly take me right back to Private Eyes or make me see a certain girl on the pole. Sallie’s song was always Butterfly by Crazy Town. As soon as it starts I can see her on the pole with her blazer on and thong doing high kicks while I was front row watching like the dance mum I am. Chris’ song was Fuck the Pain Away by Peaches. There was one particular night she got extremely drunk I mean, eyes half shut, focusing on the music, trying not spew kinda drunk. Her name was called by the DJ which meant that it was her turn for the pole. You couldn’t refuse your pole show unless you had a legitimate medical reason. Being absolutely out yer face did not count as a legit reason. Up she went. Fuck the Pain Away began to play and she did well considering the state she was in. We were front row once again. All of a sudden, she got down on the floor and started squirming around. I think she meant it to be sexy? It was not. It looked like she was taking a fit of some sort. Then she got on all fours and started to crawl in what she must’ve thought was an attractive manor but again…it wasn’t it. I must say here, the stage at Private Eyes was teeny tiny. You can see where this is going right? She was crawling and crawling and crawling and then…CRASH! She literally crawled right off the stage! Probably one of the funniest things I’ve ever witnessed, partly because we were all half cut as well. Jenna didn’t have a song that was uniquely hers. Hoe by nature, she danced to many, many songs. What were my songs I hear you ask? Du hast by Rammstein. DU DU HAST DU HAST MICH. What a fucking tune. It still gets me hyped every time I listen to it. Anytime I want to feel sexy, I put that on. I stopped stripping probably five years ago now and I still get phone calls like “ Lily, a girl is dancing to YOUR song!” Thanks babe but it’s been five years, another girl can claim it. My other songs over the years were Closer by Nine Inch Nails, I want to fuck you like an animal…feel you from the inside. Anything by Metallica. Anything by Marilyn Manson. You could say I definitely had a genre I preferred. One night, Tommy the main manager came to have a word with me after my pole show. I had danced to Whisky in the Jar and Nothing Else Matters. I had made a fiver in tips and got the tits out. As I walked back to the DJ booth with my bra swinging in my hand and my fiver sticking out my thong he pulled me aside. “Lily, enough of that goth music,”
“Fuck off Tommy,” I laughed at him while doing up my bra. There’s something odd about talking to your manager while your tits are still out. “Naw seriously Lily, I’ve had enough of heavy metal! It isn’t sexy to do a lap dance to and we’ve had complaints,”
“Complaints off who?” My voice started to rise. Who complains about a three minute song for fuck sake.
“Never you mind, just don’t request any fucking goth music. Pick something else,” Now my mind was ticking. I could feel the idea brewing in my head. I felt the smile creep across my face.
“Pick anything else?”
“I swear to fucking God Lily ANYTHING OTHER THAN MARILYN FUCKIN MANSON” He screamed at me and walked away. Hmm, anything he says. A few hours go by and once again my name was called to go up on the pole. Gordon, the resident DJ said “What’ll it be henny? Want me to help you pick another song? Superman by Eminem?” He was already searching through his various playlists for something more socially accepted. I whispered in his ear what song I wanted.
“…Are you sure? Tommy will kick up fuck,” He looked at me. I nodded and winked. He took my bag and pinged my bra strap. This was a kinda stripper/DJ high five. Pinging bras and smacking arses. Playful banter. Probably couldn’t do that in 2021 but 2013/2014 was a different era. Gordon then announced my name through the PA and I walked up to the pole. The song kicked in…the beat drops straight away with this one. DU DU DU DU DU DUUUU DUUU DU DU DU YOUNG MAN THERE’S NO NEED TO FEEL DOWN I SAID YOUNG MAN! Yes I did do a full pole show to the YMCA. By myself. On a Saturday at 1:30am. And I was sober. The club went absolutely wild! Every conversation had stopped to watch. I was getting tips left, right and centre. There tits were out and the guns were out. Every single person in that club did the YMCA with me. I climbed half way up the pole and spread my legs for the Y. The crowd was eating out of the palm of my hand. Half way through the song I heard the manager’s door upstairs bang open like Tommy had kicked it in. “LILLLLLYYYYYYYYYYY!” He screamed. I was in the shit now. He watched me as I turned the entire club into hype men for me and me only. When the song ended he motioned for me to come over to him but I was being inundated with offers for dances and VIP sessions. The guys loved the funny ginger with the specs. As I was taking a guy for a naughty forty dance I shouted in Tommy’s direction, “YOU SAID DANCE TO ANYTHING! SO I DID!” I made well over a £1,000 that night and later my boyfriend and I fucked on the bed covered with my twenty quid notes. For the record, fucking on a bed full of money is not sexy. It just got in the way. There were other songs that brought me straight back to the club. U Got It Bad by Usher. I would sing this song to Sallie every single Sunday shift and constantly sing the wrong lyrics, with confidence of course. Will I ever sing the correct lyrics to Sallie? It’s been nearly a decade…so no. One of my favourite memories of a passing dancer was involving the song Play Hard by David Guetta. Janine was passing through Glasgow on her way to travel around the UK, trying out different clubs here and there eventually ending in London. She was stick thin but she was the only girl I seen who constantly went to the vending machine. I remember one night she cleared out the entire vending machine and the bouncers were fucking fuming with her. “WAS THERE AN ACTUAL NEED TO TAN ALL THEY MALTEASERS?” Janine was in Glasgow for about 2 weeks but she worked every night so I got to know her well throughout that time. She would forever be singing Play Hard. After day nine of her singing this song, one of the other girls said something. “JANINE, THAT ISN’T THE RIGHT WORDS!” I wasn’t me who said something. I can’t talk. See above sentence about Usher for my stance on singing the wrong words. “Eh?” Janine said with a mouth full of crisps.
“The words are, a hustler’s work is never through…” The dancer said.
“Nawwww! It’s a HUSBAND’s work is never through,” Janine replied, spraying crisps everywhere. I chimed in here.
“Nah, it’s defo a hustler’s work hen,” Janine was gobsmacked by this revelation. I mean she did have a point. A husband’s work is never through! The last song in my stripper playlist will forever be Creep by Radiohead. Both DJs would finish the shift with Creep. Every. Single. Fucking. Night. I heard that song five, sometimes six nights a week for four years. See usually in Scottish culture, you play Loch Lomond to signal the end of a party? Well, the DJs used Creep as a way to say its 2:57am get yer last dances in lads. Looking back now, I should’ve asked why they jointly decided to make Creep the unofficial end of night anthem. Maybe the lyrics? BUT I’M A CREEP I’M A WEIRDO WHAT THE HELL AM I DOIN’ HERE? I DON’T BELONG HERE. Ooft. There’s a lot to unpack there. Do any of us really belong in the strip club? What are we doing here?
Going back to an earlier point I mentioned way back at the beginning of this story, I said that stripping can be an addiction. It’s almost like gambling. If you do well, you can get a big payoff. If you don’t do well, you get into debt. Debt with the club. They hang it over your head. It is literally luck of the draw, you could do everything exactly the same every single night and it may only work two nights out of seven. When you do make a big score like a grand or more you feel untouchable. I’m the hottest bitch in this place. These guys can’t get enough of me. An orgasmic mix of superficial attention from intoxicated punters and cold hard cash. Nine times out of ten the ecstasy you felt was some form of class A drug handed to you in the dressing room or in the dance room. A pill slipped under your tongue for your troubles. Keep the charade up darlin’, the night is still young. My entire personality changed when I’d slip the suspenders over my thighs and set them with hairspray (This is an old dancer’s trick to keep stockings up that have a habit of slipping. I swear to God it works, follow me for more stripper hacks). Once I put my 7 inch heels on my feet I became Lily. My real identity was hidden with a haze of adrenaline and false eyelashes. In real life, I am extremely shy. Especially in a group setting, my God the anxiety. Lily? Nah she didn’t have that problem. Confidence oozed out of her. Raw sex appeal. The real me? Messy bun and oversized jumpers 24/7, no confidence to even post a full length photo of me on the gram. Perhaps it’s my old age. I’ve grown up. I now have a mortgage and responsibilities. I don’t dance for six hours a night, five times a week. My body shape has changed. My priorities have changed. Doesn’t mean I don’t yearn for a night in Private Eyes again. I quit stripping multiple times over the four years I was active. I quit for love. Let’s all laugh together. I quit for a better quality of life but I missed the money. I quit for a new day job but I missed the attention being a stripper brought to me. I was sacked several times for a variety of things. Smacking a customer when he tried to shove his finger inside me. Nah son, we don’t stan sexual assault in these here parts. Every single stripper you speak to will have a MeToo story. We’ve all been sexually assaulted or at least attempted. Some said we were asking for it. Others said we should have expected it. I disagree. Boundaries are still boundaries regardless of profession or appearance. Even with all the risks, I still enjoyed the thrill and rush of being Lily. Lily gave me an escape from my introverted self. After being told time and time again over the last five years that I, the real me, isn’t good enough, I began to believe it. I don’t know if I’ll ever get Lily’s confidence back. In the next Comedy Corner Zoom call with the girls, I’ll put on Du Hast, my heels and swing around the pole I have at home. Of course I have a pole in my house! Well, in the garage. The audience for my pole shows now are absolutely fucking nobody because I lock myself in the garage, put the pole on spin and pretend it’s 2012…